Binary Games

Written by Richard Crossley, originally as a screenplay for inclusion in a short collection of stories back in the Triggerstreet days. May or may not be published elsewhere, but all rights to all versions is retained by Richard Crossley.

Jason glances repeatedly back and forth between the road ahead and the rear view mirror.

He kicks the gas pedal harder and the car swerves for an instant onto the dirt shoulder, kicking dust into the air, before it straightens and accelerates slightly. There is nothing left to give.

Far behind, just a dot in the rear view as yet, a vehicle grows larger, closing the distance, gaining ground fast.

Ahead, the mountains loom and the woods deepen into real forest.

Jason’s thick, dirty blond hair clings to the sweat on his forehead. The dot in the mirror grows. Jason mumbles to himself.

“Jason Pressler. That’s me. But you can just call me stupid.”

Jason checks the speedometer.

“87”

That’s all there is, and it’s not nearly enough. He does the math out loud.

“6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.. That’s 6. No, 5… Then 60 minus 17…”

His eyes dart frantically as he calculates. The road, the mirror, the speed, the gauges; temperature creeping up. Back to the clock.

“5 hours and 43 minutes.. 42.” 

As if having spasms, he jerks violently between the wheel and the seat, trying desperately to coax more from the dying engine.

He slams his hands down repeatedly on the steering wheel.

“Fuck, FUCK!”

All to no avail. The speed is holding steady for the moment but the temperature is in a steady climb now.

Jason’s mind drifts to the last time he was so close to death. The filthy pool room in a part of town he didn’t belong.

He doesn’t remember what he said or did to infuriate the man.

Too much alcohol. For both of them probably. 

What he does remember is being pinned against the wall with a knife pressed against his neck.

He could smell the guys’ breath in his face. It reeked of tequila. The mans’ eyes were wild and bloodshot and they gave away his intent.

Jason knew he was about to die, bleeding out on the floor of this filthy pool hall. 

Then a cue stick came down on the mans’ skull and his eyes swam up and disappeared into his head, leaving only the bloodshot whites behind.

The man fell to the floor and blood gushed from the wide crack in his head.

Suddenly Jasons’ brother Greg was there, pulling him quickly to the door..

It wasn’t the first time his older brother had rescued him.

Jason owed Greg his life.

 
 

 

The Readout:

“05:36:21”

Grass gives way to trees, the road climbs.

The engine knocks, threatening to sieze up at any moment.

Wisps of steam escape from under the hood and sweep across the windshield.

What’s that old saying, Jason thinks;

“When something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is?”

Yeah, that’s the one.

His mind carries him away again, this time to the diner where he first learned of this golden “opportunity” to save his brother for a change.

 
 
 

 

 

Jason sits across the booth from Rory  Denners, the sarcastic manager of his sales department. His breakfast, mostly uneaten, grows cool on the tabletop. 

Rory finishes a big bite of eggs, followed by toast and looks at Jason, amused.

If my brother owed Garrish money,
I’d say I didn’t know em.”

He smiles before stuffing more eggs in his mouth.

Jason doesn’t doubt for a moment that’s exactly what Rory would do. Nobody was as coldly self centered. 

He stays calm, though his head is racing with questions.

This Billionaire’s Hunt shit sounds too easy. What’s the catch?”

Rory chews his toast slowly, enjoying the total attention he’s receiving.

There’s twelve runners and only three hunters.  Runners get a one hour head start. You have to stay in the state and be inside the lodge when the time is up. Truthfully, I’m thinking of doing it myself.”

Everyone at the table laughs, knowing that in a physical contest, Rory would be on the sidelines betting, not competing.

Jason asks,

“Everyone splits the pot?”

Rory eyes Jason mischievously.

“Sure. If you make it, you win. Sometimes, nobody
does, from what I’ve heard.”

 

 

The steam is heavy now, making it hard to see. Jason checks the speed:

“54”

and dropping. In the mirror, the ‘dot’ is now clearly a car.

“Seriously, you have to be stupid to think somebody will give up that kind of cash so easily right?”

Yah, about that ‘catch’. It’s simple enough alright. If you don’t win, you lose.

Big time.

This little leech in my neck not only has GPS, but an injector to put enough lethal poison in my bloodstream to stone cold kill me in a few agonizing seconds.

Break the ‘rules’ or get hit close enough to the receiver by either the hunters or players and your death is both painful and certain.

Jason remembers making the decision and having the device injected at the base of his neck.

 
 

 

He was taken, blindfolded,  into a small dark room. They removed his blindfold after pushing him into a dentist  chair. 

It was dark, except for the small light affixed to the chair and focused on his face. He saw a large clock on the wall, and the undistinguished form of an overweight man preparing some sort of surgical instrument. 

Another man, behind him, roughly strapped his arms down to the chair and then pulled a strap across his forehead, pulling it tight and immobilizing him.

The ‘dentist’ turned to face him, bringing his face into the light near Jason. He held up an impossibly thick needle and smiled. He was no dentist. His own teeth were stained brown and ragged.

“This is going to hurt” he said. “A lot.”

Then he stuck the needle into Jason’s flesh. It felt like a knife.

Jason screamed before passing out. He remembered thinking “He wasn’t lying.”

When he regained awareness, just moments later, the dentist was slapping his face lightly.

“Don’t want to waste your precious time sleeping” he said.

The room was well lit now. The clock on the wall told him it was 11:59 PM.

The dentist smiled, apparently happy to see him awake. He held a collar with a small digital display on it and he bent to  quickly fasten it around Jason’s neck. 

The dentist looked back at the clock.

Midnight.

He pushed a small button on the collar device then quickly removed Jasons’ bindings.

He bent close to Jasons’ ear. 

“Five million dollars. Twenty four hours. Run, mutha fucker.”

 

 

Two signs at the side of the road, just before a bridge.

 “Patuxent River”

 “Peddington Lodge – 4 Miles”

Jason’s car sputters onto the bridge, smoking and choking.

Always the little details, isn’t it.  And about that splitting the money. 

Bullshit.

We all carry a pistol to trigger opponent’s injectors.

Only one survives.

That makes it 14 fucking hunters by my count. Not to mention of course, that it makes us runners killers as well..

Jason rumbles to a stop and jumps from the car. He looks down the road and spies the approaching car, slowing.

He runs to the side of the bridge and climbs over the rail. He studies the lazy water below. It looks deep. He takes a final look back. 

A rifle extends from the window of the slowing car.

Jason leaps.

 

Water.

Bubbles.

Churning.

Feet kicking. 

Need the surface. 

Need air.

On the bridge, the hunter stands at the rail and aims his rifle. 

A red dot dances across the surface of the water, closing in on Jason.

He takes a huge breath and plunges into the darkness.

 

“I know what you’re thinking.”

You’ve got a whole state to hide in, right? 

Of course, the fucking noose is that you have somewhere specific to be in the end.

If you’re a hunter, then you know that too.

 
 

 

Jason, wrinkled but dry, crouches behind a tree and peers at the massive lodge beyond.

No hunters allowed inside.  

Once you get through the door, it’s only your competition that stands between you and the money.

And oh ya, another rule. There can only be one alive inside when the time runs out, or everyone rides the injector dream to lasting darkness. 

Isn’t that sporting?

Some unknown billionaire gets his sick fuck entertainment and maybe doesn’t even have to make a payout!

Jason checks the green glow of his watch.

“11:18”

The tag on his neck reads

 “00:41:13”

The lobby is ground zero, but Jason doesn’t plan on dying on the porch.

He crouches, snakes his way through the trees and around toward the back of the lodge.

 

 

SNAP. A branch cracks nearby. Jason freezes, holds his breath, his eyes frantically searching the darkness.

A red dot crawls slowly across the trunk of a nearby tree. Jason rolls into thick brush.

Ow! Oh, Jesus!

He gasps in deep breaths, waits to die.

He doesn’t.

He slowly moves his hand behind his head, plucks away the tip of a small branch that pokes his neck.

He exhales.

Rustling noises.

Close.

Jason rolls to his back and pulls the pistol from his pocket.

He stares blindly into the darkness, holding his breath until it feels like his head will explode.  

He knows the hunter need not be a  marksman. A hit anywhere on the upper body will be close enough. 

The sounds of breaking twigs and dry leaves finally retreats and Jason gasps for fresh air as quietly as he can.

Truth be told, he hopes the others eliminate the others. 

 

 

At the lodge.

The full moon escapes from wispy clouds and  bounces from the windows.

Jasons’ face reflected, looks back at him as he pushes the window open and pulls himself inside..

 

 

 

Moonlight dances from stainless steel fixtures and appliances.

Jason drops to the floor. 

Immediately he sees a red dot moving up his leg. He dives for the cover of a prep table.

BAM! The noise shatters the silence. 

Jason rolls under the table, aims at a shadowy figure near the ovens. He squeezes the trigger lightly.

A red dot lights the figure’s chest at the same time Jason sees the light on the figures’ gun pointing at him. 

Jason squeezes harder. BAM!

The figure cries out as the small implant in his neck makes a surprisingly loud ‘pop’ and then hisses. He gags, clutches his throat, and falls to the floor.

Our dungeon masters were kind enough to make our weapons operate like a self focus camera. Squeeze a little for targeting, a little harder for the unneeded but satisfying sound effects.

Of course, nothing comes free. You don’t get to fire without giving away your position.

Jason crawls swiftly to the dead man and stares at him, transfixed.

Except for a small spot of blood at the ejection site and a bit of foam around the mans lips, he looks like he might have just taken a nap. Jason knew it was the kind you didn’t wake up from.

Jason checks his watch.

“11:55”

Killing a man is way too easy, he thinks, but he’ll have to wait another 5 minutes before he enjoys the luxury of analyzing how he feels.

Jason works his way stealthily to the doorway and peeks into the hall.

 

 

One way leads to a bank of elevators in the rear.

The other way passes a dining area on the right, and several doors on the left. The lobby looms in the distance.

Jason creeps slowly towards the dining area.

 

 

SHOTS ring out.

Red dots flash through the dining area.

THUD.

Someone hits the floor.

Jason scurries back, watches a shadow move from the dining room into the hall, pause, and creep toward the lobby.

Jason aims down the hallway, lightly squeezes.

His red dot finds no target.

He takes a deep breath, edges into the hall and quietly moves along the wall toward the lobby.

 

A shot rings out behind him.

Jason sprawls on the floor, playing possum.

Running footsteps are coming closer.

Another SHOT.

A gasp of pain and the body of a heavy red haired man suddenly collapses inches from Jason, his shoulder striking Jason so hard he nearly cries out. His head makes a sickening thud as it cracks against the hard floor and his dead eyes seem to peer into Jasons’ own.

Jason stares, unblinking, holding his breath as softer footsteps cautiously approach.

A tall thin man  kneels silently beside the dead body, and looks at the display on the man’s neck. It is frozen at

“00:03:57”

The man glances  at Jason’s display,

“00:03:18”

“00:03:17”

His eyes suddenly flash wide and he pulls his gun up.

Not fast enough.

Jason paints a dot on the thin mans face, and pulls the trigger.

The sounds come so fast they seem as one.

BAM! 

CLICK

HISS

GASP

THUD.

The Gun, the injector, the poison, the realization of death, and at last, the fall to the floor.

Jason rolls away from the growing pile of death and gets to his feet.

He moves in the shadows to the end of the hall and peers into the lobby.

 

 

A large digital readout over the reception counter, counts down:

“TIME – 00:02:18 PLAYERS – 2”

A glass case on the counter holds bundles of bills.

A dot flashes on the wall next to Jason. He sees the source across the room, a shadow by the sofa.

Jason dives to the floor as a shot rings out.  He rolls, aims at the vanishing shadow and fires twice. He scrambles behind a large table.

A Speaker beneath the display crackles to life.

“TWO MINUTES REMAIN IN THE CONTEST. IF THE PLAYER COUNT REACHES 1 BEFORE THE TIME REACHES 0, WE HAVE A VICTOR”

SHOTS ring out. A Shadowy figure races toward Jason.

Jason launches  upright, flips the table toward the onrushing figure. It crashes into the man, sends him sprawling on his back. The man’s pistol skitters across the floor.

Jason steps forward, aims at the Man’s chest, and FREEZES.

It’s Greg, his brother. Their eyes meet, Greg’s terrified,

Jason’s full of surprise and horror.

Jason turns toward the display.

This is my brother! I’m not killing my brother!”

From the speaker, the voice is without emotion.

“THIS IS A BINARY GAME. AT THE END, IT IS ALWAYS ZERO OR ONE.”

Jason turns back to Greg, horrified.

Greg points a real gun at Jason and shrugs. He grins, winks, FIRES!

Jason is hit. He flies backward across the overturned table.

Greg gets to his feet and walks triumphantly to the cash case.

He tries to pull the glass off. It doesn’t budge. He stares angrily at the speaker.

Open it! I won, fair and square.”

The speaker replies.

“ZERO OR ONE”

Greg looks at the display.

“TIME – 00:00:16 PLAYERS – 2”

Greg spins to the table.

A dark trail of blood leads behind the counter. He follows it, gun first, crouching low.

Jason, shoulder bleeding, sits against a potted plant, his gun extended.

BAM! Jason fires. Click. Hiss. Gasp. Greg stares at him, unbelieving, his throat in spasms.

“I’m sorry” Jason says softly as his brother crashes to the floor.

Lights come on. The glass case opens. Celebratory bells ring.

The display freezes:

“TIME – 00:00:03 PLAYERS – 1”

 

 

Jason stares at his brother, unbelieving, before falling back against the plant, watching the colored balloons float down on the elite that seem to come from the woodwork, completely entertained by the suffering and destruction of others.

 

EPILOGUE

They were at least gracious enough to allow me to take my brother for burial… and give me my money. Five million in cold hard untraceable cash. It makes for a heavy duffel bag!

 

 

Jason, shoulder bandaged, weaves through traffic in a bright yellow sports car, holding the wheel with his knees when he shifts gears.

Alright, maybe calling me stupid is a little off the mark, although taking a real slug to the shoulder isn’t the smartest thing I ever did. “

“But for five million bucks, I’d do it again.”

“Yeah, even for half that.”

Jason pulls to the curb.

Greg, decked out like a million dollar pimp, opens the passenger side door and scoots in. He grins at Jason and winks.

“Greg, on the other hand, had to trust in an unknown antidote he took ten minutes before our confrontation. It pays to have friends.”

Like he told me,

“If it don’t work, keep my share.”

They roar down the road.

fini..

 

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Binary Games

by Richard Crossley time to read: 12 min
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